Vigilance in protecting animal welfare and maintaining fully compliant animal care programs is more important than ever.

by Alan Dittrich

Biomedical research with animals is regulated at the Federal, state and sometimes the municipal levels. Laws that affect animal research attempt to codify the minimum acceptable level of animal care and use as well as to protect human health and safety. They are implemented within research organizations in order to earn the privilege of working with animals. Research organizations occasionally must adapt to incremental changes in those laws.
But now a whole new gathering of forces is at work trying to bring about much more dramatic changes in the legal situation for research with animals. In the State House and in the courtroom, legislators and attorneys are acting in new ways to minimize or even end the use of animals in research by creating high or insurmountable legal barriers.

If these new efforts are successful, animal research could either stop or relocate. The first could be devastating to knowledge and health; the second would create a whole new set of auditing challenges. And even if neither of these extreme situations occurs, opening the door for animal cruelty charges against researchers, allowing private right of action and aesthetic injury claims against research organizations, implementing “do no harm” laws would all have the effect of significantly changing the auditor’s work.

How these changes will impact animal care programs is unclear at this point.  What is clear though is the ever increasing need for vigilance in protecting animal welfare and maintaining fully compliant animal care programs that meet or even exceed best practices.  Managing animal care programs is a collaborative effort involving the veterinary staff, animal care staff, quality assurance auditors and the IACUC.  Robust internal and external auditing programs as well as formal post approval monitoring programs are critical elements to successfully navigating the challenges of the increasingly more complex regulatory and legal environments that impact the biomedical research community.

We will review some proposed laws and recent court cases. Animal law – often practiced as animal rights law – is one of the fastest growing sections of the bar in the US, and with more lawyers come more cases, more novel legal theories and a greater need for animal research organizations to be “legally” alert. And, as both a cause of and a result of changing human/animal relations, the legislative landscape for animal research is changing, too.

Some of the possible areas of discussion: challenges to the constitutionality of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act; use of Endangered Species designations to remove animals from research settings; animal cruelty charges against research organizations and researchers; novel theories such as legal personhood for animals and the cases that come from it; “do no harm” bills; mandatory “adoption” bills; private cause of action for animal cruelty bills; open records laws; and others.

Don't miss this and more at the Age of Auditing Symposium on February 3-4, 2015 at the ACE Conference Center in Lafayette Hills, PA.   

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AuthorPaula